Report By: Moses Bailey
Bong County – Residents of Boisien, Kokoyah Statutory District in Bong County are hailing Accountability Lab Liberia for its intervention in educating them about the Mineral Development Agreement of AmLib/MNG Gold signed with the government of Liberia. MNG Gold is a Turkish mining company extracting gold in Boisien district.
As part of its ‘Building Better Governance in Mining Areas project’, Accountability Lab Liberia is simplifying and interpreting the mineral development agreements of mining companies and empowering citizens to know their rights and responsibilities, and to hold government and concessionaires accountable, according to Lawrence Yealue II, Country Representative of Accountability Lab Liberia.
At a recent community forum with cross session of citizens in Dean Town in Boisien, Accountability Lab Liberia made available copies of AmLib/MNG Gold’s MDA to the citizens.
“So our role here is to bring the government, citizens and the company together; makes information available to the citizens as per the agreement,” Yealue said. “If you know your rights as a citizen, when you are very educated as to what you should get, you make the right request.”
Some of the citizens who spoke during the forum lauded Accountability Lab Liberia for the initiative geared towards building their knowledge on the MDA and how they can positively engage the company and government officials for their social benefits.
Philip Duo, the town chief of Dean Town, said residents of the affected mining communities were not part of the decision that awarded their areas to firm.
He said the decision was made in Monrovia by national leaders, and the company was only seen in the area without their knowledge.
He said the citizens have not had the opportunity to see the MDA for their perusal to know and clearly understand what benefits are therein for them.
Duo recommended that Accountability Lab Liberia engages national leaders through similar community forums to also build their capacity to advocate for the rights of community dwellers from concessionaires.
“Thank you people very much for coming today to help educate us and make us understand our role and responsibility as citizens,” Duo noted.
A youth leader in the district, Emmanuel Bondo, told reporters following the forum that they will use the MDA given them by Accountability Lab Liberia to educate other citizens who did not attend the meeting.
Bondo said having copy of the MDA will further strengthen their advocacy efforts because the document clearly spells out their entitlements as affected communities.
“The forum was very fine; we were able to achieve something. Based on the document that they gave us we will go through it and begin to engage our leaders constructively,” Bondo told reporters.
MNG Gold’s Community Liaison Officer, Keith Gboe, also hailed Accountability Lab Liberia for engaging the citizens and the company to discuss the MDA and help build a peaceful environment.
He said most citizens do not know how to engage the company for social benefits, adding that the forum was in the interest of the citizens and the company as well.
In separate remarks, the Citizen Helpdesks Manager of Accountability Lab Liberia, Mr. Otis S. Bundor encouraged citizens to consistently engage MNG Gold through peaceful dialogue. He also cautioned MNG Gold to implement the full Agreement and improve their relationship with communities in Kokoyah.
“I know it is difficult sometimes to keep asking MNG Gold to implement the Mineral Development Agreement but you have been equipped through these meetings to engage the company peacefully and petition your Lawmakers for the MDA to be implemented in totality, Mr. Bundor asserted,” he added:
“From our findings, I am encouraging MNG Gold to improve their relationship with the citizens. As a civil society organization, Accountability Lab Liberia will be glad for the company and communities to peaceful co-exist.”
With funding from GIZ, through Citizen Helpdesks, Accountability Lab is implementing the project in two mining areas: Bea Mountain in New Kinjor, Grand Cape Mount County and MNG Gold in Kokoyah, Bong County.